Two of the most common forms of eye irritation are eye allergies and dry eye syndrome (frequently called dry eye). Both can cause itching, and many people mistake dry eye symptoms for allergies. If eyes are uncomfortable, scratchy or gritty, these are signs that dry eye may be the cause.
Dry eye occurs when eyes do not produce the right quantity or quality of tears. It is among the least understood eye conditions and affects the largest number of people, up to 20% of the population. If left untreated, the risk of permanent damage and scarring to the front of the eye increases.
Dry eye is most common in women older than 50 due to hormonal changes, and only an eye doctor can diagnose the issue. Typically, the doctor will perform one or more tests to assess the condition. Ophthalmologist Clayton Falknor, M.D. explained, “At Eye Clinic of Austin, we use the TearLab® Osmolarity Test. This gives us information about the concentration of salt in a patient’s tears, and helps us diagnose the severity of the issue.”
Initial treatment of mild dry eye consists of lubricating the eye with topical artificial tears or possibly a prescription eye drop called Restasis.
“If Restasis is used properly twice a day for six months, the result is typically dramatic improvement for 90% of patients. This prescription medication can significantly improve quality of life,” said Ophthalmologist Thomas Henderson, M.D.
To determine if you have dry eye syndrome, contact your eye doctor and schedule a comprehensive eye exam.